Today is Western Australia Day (formerly known as Foundation Day), a public holiday in the state of Western Australia (WA), celebrated on the first Monday in June each year to commemorate the founding of the Swan River Colony in 1829. Because of the celebration of Western Australia Day, WA does not celebrate the Queen’s Birthday Holiday in June, as do the other Australian states (and other Commonwealth nations).
HMS Challenger, under Captain Charles Fremantle, anchored off Garden Island on 25 April 1829. Fremantle officially claimed the western part of Australia for Britain on 2 May. The merchant vessel Parmelia – with the new colony’s administrator Lieutenant-Governor James Stirling, other officials, and civilian settlers on board – arrived on the night of 31 May and sighted the coast on 1 June. It finally anchored in Cockburn Sound on 6 June. The warship HMS Sulphur arrived on 6 June, carrying the British Army garrison. The Swan River Colony was officially proclaimed by Stirling on 11 June.
Ships carrying more civilian settlers began arriving in August, and on the King’s Birthday, 12 August, the wife of the captain of Sulphur, Mrs Helena Dance, standing in for Mrs Ellen Stirling, cut down a tree to mark the founding of the colony’s capital, Perth.
In 1832, Stirling decided that an annual celebration was needed to unite the colony’s inhabitants, including both settlers and Aborigines. He decided that the commemoration would be held on 1 June each year (or, if a Sunday, on the following Monday), the date originally planned by Stirling for Parmelia’s arrival in recognition of the British naval victory over the French in the Napoleonic Wars in 1794, the “Glorious First of June.”
The holiday was celebrated as Foundation Day until 2012, when it was renamed Western Australia Day as part of a series of law changes recognizing Aboriginal Australians as the original inhabitants of Western Australia. I am no more in love with celebrations of the European colonization of Australasia than I am with Columbus Day and the like https://www.bookofdaystales.com/dia-de-la-raza/ . But history is what it is. We can’t go back and undo the 19th century, more’s the pity. We have to make the best of it. British Colonial expansion in the 19th century went hand in glove with post-Napoleonic War nationalism and the Industrial Revolution in Europe. Changing the name of the holiday is a start; recognizing the rights of indigenous peoples, and righting the wrongs perpetrated against them could go a lot farther.
Lighting a campfire and cooking some bush tucker would certainly be appropriate for the day, but it’s getting on for winter in Australia and the weather forecast for Perth looks a bit grim today (low teens Celsius with afternoon rain). So I wouldn’t be inclined to have a barbie with my mates if I were there now. How about pikelets? They can work for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
Pikelets are an Australian hybrid, somewhere between the pancakes of Britain and the U.S. In fact, certain flapjacks in the U.S. are more or less identical, but they vary from cook to cook. The key to pikelets is that they contain a rising agent so that they are light. They are also a little sweet. It’s common to serve pikelets as a dessert dish with fruit and cream, or with golden syrup for breakfast.
1 cup (150g) self raising flour
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tbsp caster sugar
¾ cup (180 mL) milk
Sift together the flour, sugar, bicarbonate of soda, and a pinch of salt in a mixing bowl. Beat together the milk and egg and add to the dry ingredients. Mix well to form a dropping batter.
Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and melt some butter in it, but do not let it brown. Use a small ladle to drop the batter into the skillet to form small pikelets (no bigger than 5”/12cm). In a large skillet you can make 3 or 4 at a time. When the bottoms are nicely browned and the tops bubbling, use a spatula to flip the pikelets. Cook to a golden brown on the bottom and serve hot.
You can serve pikelets in stacks with a knob of butter on top, or you can add fresh fruit to the plate.